BELOW THE BOTTOM EUXG 33
Heaven knows, this may sound a trivial instance, but when
you multiply it by millions it ceases to be trivial; it becomes a
major problem, not only for India but for the whole democratic
\rery briefly, let us consider the life of the untouchables.
It is largely a matter of negatives.
They may not use the public wells, which means that they are
condemned to drink any filthy liquid they can find.
Their children may not enter the schools ; they must sit outside,
whatever the weather, even in the monsoon.
They may not go near the bathing places. Hence, through no -
fault of their own, they are usually unutterably filthy.
The temples are closed to them. This is the unkindest cut of all,
for if you take away their faith from a people so sunk in misery,
you take away the only consolation, they have. Admittedly, one
or two dramatic gestures have been made in the past few years,
by enlightened rulers and statesmen, who have thrown open
tempbs to all comers* But what happens ? As soon as the un-
touchables flock in, the orthodox flock out. The temple becomes
an 'untouchable* temple, it is tainted, unholy, and as such it
ceases to be an, object of reverence even to the untouchables
Among other restrictions, the barbers may not cut their hair,
nor the washermen wash their clothes.
One thing they can do is to tend the earth closets and carry
away the night soil from the villages. This they do in large
wicker baskets, which they put on their heads. The baskets leak,
and the untouchable is not a pretty sight when he, or she, has
finished the job.
Still—say the Hindus—it is their own fault; they are paying
for the sias of a previous incarnation; why should we have any
1The classic example of this tendency was afforded by the great temple afc
Madura, 300 miles* south of Madras. Premier Rajagopalar»han went so far as
<ordermq5 a government official to lead a group of untouchables into the temple. Tha
.great majority of Brahmins have refused to set foot in it ever since.